Chapter 1: The Beginning
When you're eleven years old, it is remarkably easy to mistake love for loathing.
Draco Malfoy had waited for years, anxiously anticipating the letter that would accept him into Hogwarts. Having grown up in the lap of luxury, wealth, and status, he had no doubt that he would be the most popular boy at the wizarding school. He planned on succeeding in every class, captaining a Quidditch team (he had been riding a broom since he was four years old), and surrounding himself with a group of like-minded, ambitious individuals.
It was his own little secret, but there was another reason he wanted to go to Hogwarts: friends. Though he would never have admitted it to anyone, he was a lonely kid. Malfoy Manor was glamourous and renowned, and Draco had been raised to take pride in his pure blood and his family history, had drunk in the stories of his father's exploits, but it often sucked being the only child there.
He knew a couple children his age – sons of his father's old friends. But it wasn't the same.
He had heard his mother and father talking about the "blood traitor" Weasleys. His father spoke of them in disgust, his mother with a haughtiness that barely concealed her jealousy, that she a pure-blood should have struggled to be pregnant once, while the Weasley woman had seven children.
Draco couldn't imagine having that many siblings. He wondered if they had fun, if they laughed and played games and sneaked into each other's rooms to talk late into the night, if it was worth sharing your things and fighting, just to know that you had people who loved you.
No one had taught Draco how to make friends. He assumed that everyone would like him instantly – he was a Malfoy after all – but no one seemed to share his high sentiments of his lineage. Except Crabbe and Goyle, but they didn't count. He had known them since they were in diapers, and they weren't very bright.
He had tried befriending Potter, but it hadn't worked. Harry preferred that Weasley kid. He couldn't fathom why, especially with all the things his parents had told him about that family.
Even worse, that mudblood girl with the big teeth and bushy hair had chosen to be friends with Potter. They called him the Boy Who Lived, but he couldn't see what the big deal was. Draco was alive, wasn't he? And he felt certain that he was a much better wizard than that half-blood. Only the best wizards were placed in Slytherin. What could she possibly see in him?
Draco hated Potter. Hated him for being famous, for being such a big-shot on campus. Hated him for the easy way he made friends. And he hated her, for falling for all that. For being completely oblivious to the fact that he was far superior to Harry.
He had always been taught that nothing was more disgraceful than dirty blood, muggle parents. If she didn't want to elevate her status by befriending a pureblood, than so be it. He should have walked away and left it alone, stopped spending so much time talking to her, trying to catch her eye.
But Draco couldn't stop thinking about Hermione Granger.
He hadn't known that mudbloods could be so intelligent, or so attractive. She was a bit annoying, even the Weasel said so, but there was something inspiring in the way she absorbed knowledge and answered every question the teachers asked. She wasn't intimidated by the professors, by authority. She was determined and ambitious and resourceful. She was sure of herself, in a way that differed from every girl he had ever known. Her spirit was as wild as her hair. And, he had to admit, though it was a bit unkempt, it looked soft and adorable – big hair on such a little person. She had a nice little nose, that crinkled when she was vexed, and lovely brown eyes that reminded him of the woodlands bordering his home.
Draco didn't know why he thought about Hermione so much; why he stole glances at her in class; why deep down he wished he could ask her to come visit him at the manor, or that he could visit her at her home, see what it was like to grow up with muggles; why he imagined warm summers spent playing in fields and reading books under trees; why he sometimes walked close to her just so he could smell her coconut shampoo; why he said things he knew would make her angry, just because he wanted to see the fire light up in her eyes.
He tried everything he could to get her attention; he showed off and called her names. He joined the Slytherin Quidditch team, and had his father buy them all new brooms, to prove his status. He had tried to warn her that if the Chamber of Secrets opened, Mudbloods would be in danger. He even told his mother and father about her, hoping they would shed some light on his problem. Mother had given him a small smile; Father had sniffed and remarked on her filthy blood.
For six years, Draco tried to show Hermione that Ron and Harry could never deserve her. Had tried in vain to gain her interest. He just wanted her to see him. Really see him. If anyone could ever understand him, he knew Granger could.
Six years he struggled against his affection for her, which only seemed to increase as the months passed. He toiled under the pain of his unrequited feelings, praying that just once she would look his way. How he wished he could confide in her. If anyone could save him from his impending death, surely it was perfect prefect Granger.
But she wouldn't care if he died. No one would.
Whether it was Harry or Voldemort who killed him, no one would shed a tear at his demise. Maybe they would even think he deserved it. Maybe she wouldn't even notice he was gone.
Seventh year came, and Draco looked for Hermione everyday for a week. She was not on the train, or eating at the Gryffindor table. She wasn't even in the library. He knew she must be with Potter, wherever he was. Far away from Hogwarts, from the mess he had caused.
But he couldn't bring himself to feel jealous. He was glad that she was away from the Carrows and the dementors. He hoped that she was safe and warm. He hoped those two idiot friends of hers were taking good care of her.
And, more than anything, he wanted her to know, deep inside her heart, that he had never wanted any of this to happen.
He hoped he would have the chance to tell her someday